Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel: Meet the Pennsylvania Health Expert Who Just Joined Biden’s COVID-19 Dream Team

In this March 11, 2009 photo, Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, special advisor for health care at the Office of Management and Budget, speaks at the American Medical Association's annual conference at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, Ezekiel J. Emanuel values intelligence, but don't accuse him of Harvard-itis. He'll tell you an Ivy League degree doesn't prove anyone's worth. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By Ashley Adams

November 9, 2020

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel is on the 13-member advisory council that will lead the pandemic response for the Biden administration.

President-Elect Joe Biden is already working on his plans to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic.

And he has a University of Pennsylvania professor on his pandemic advisory council.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and Vice Provost of Global Initiatives and Chairman of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Penn, is one of 13 health experts on the panel. Emanuel was a health policy advisor for the Obama administration and has been a long-time Biden consultant on the pandemic.

Some of the other medical professionals on the panel also ran agencies or served on panels under the Clinton and Obama administrations.

They include: former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler, Yale University professor Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, and Executive Vice President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Dr. Julie Morita.

Federal vaccine expert and Trump whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright is also on Biden’s council. Bright testified before Congress that the White House ignored warnings about the pandemic’s threat.

Emanuel has said a Biden presidency will mean a significant change to how the US handles the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden will actually model the public health interventions necessary to curb the spread of the virus (wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, avoiding crowds), Emanuel told MarketWatch in October.

Biden will also make sure experts are leading the way in the response.

What Will the Council Do?

The council is expected to advise transitional officials on managing the latest spike in coronavirus cases, ensuring vaccines are safe, and protecting at-risk populations. Emanuel told Politico last month that the group plans to set up subgroups of officials who will focus on testing, vaccine distribution, therapeutics, guidance for schools to reopen safely, and coordination with states.

Biden has a seven-point plan to combat the COVID pandemic:

  • Ensure all Americans have access to regular, reliable, and free testing;
  • Fix personal protective equipment (PPE) problems;
  • Provide clear, consistent, evidence-based guidance for how communities should navigate the pandemic;
  • Plan for the effective, equitable distribution of treatments and vaccines;
  • Protect older Americans and others at high risk;
  • Rebuild and expand defenses to predict, prevent, and mitigate pandemic threats; and
  • Implement mask mandates nationwide

Emanuel told Healthline that the advisory council has created checklists of things that need to be done in a transition and have thought through the whole process of implementation. He said a much more coordinated response will be evident, along with a rebuilding of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Emanuel has predicted that the country won’t be back to “normal,” or at least a “new normal” until November 2021.

Who is Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel?

Emanuel, 63, is the brother of former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, who served as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Amherst College, a master’s in biochemistry from Oxford College, an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, and a Ph.D. in political philosophy from Harvard University.

He has taught medicine at Harvard before he became the Chief of the Department of Bioethics at the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health. He was a special advisor on health policy to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama administration.

Emanuel became the Vice Provost of Global Initiatives and Chairman of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Penn in 2011. He teaches classes on the American healthcare system and health care reform.

He also has taught as a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, UCLA, Johns Hopkins Medical School, Stanford Medical School, and New York University Law School.

Emanuel has written and edited more than a dozen books. He also has written op-eds for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic.


  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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